Assembly elections 2016: What went wrong with the Left

The Left might have won in Kerala, but losing West Bengal despite going for an alliance with the Congress has come as a big blow for the party that had ruled the state for more than three decades at a stretch.

The Left leaders might not agree that they have been decimated and take pride of having its governments in tanalywo states Tripura and now Kerala, the fact remains that Communist Party of India (Marxist) — the leader of the coalition — the Left Front is yet to get over from the massive defeat in 2011, when Mamata Banerjee routed 34-year Left rule in Bengal.

 Assembly elections 2016: What went wrong with the Left

Representational image. Agencies

In spite of forming an alliance (Joth) with Congress for 2016 Assembly poll, this time the Left has performed worse (75 seats jointly) than in 2011 Assembly election, when the Left Front alone had won 61 seats.

It was a time in 1990s when the Left had its government in three states — West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. Even, during the regime of UPA-1, the Left had supported the government at Centre from outside, but since 2011, it had witnessed a steady decline. It lost West Bengal and Kerala and performed disastrously in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

What has gone wrong in West Bengal?

According to the Left party leaders and the review report of the 21st Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) held in Vishakhapatnam in 2015:

- Shift in voters' base from CPI (M) to Trinamool Congress (TMC).
- Disconnect with grass root level voters.
- Over powering Neo-liberal policies and manifestations of the neo-liberal attack on the working class.
- Rise of Right-wing politics (effect of BJP-RSS combine).
- Communalism.
- Inability of the Left parties to regain its lost mass base since 2011.
- Left's failure to project its issues effectively among the masses.
- Use of money and freebies by the ruling government in the state (TMC).
- Violent attack on Left party offices and workers allegedly by the TMC.
- Compulsions of the alliance (Joth).

"The CPM respects the verdict of the West Bengal electorate which re-elected the TMC government in this election. The CPM and the Left Front had campaigned for the restoration of democracy, peace and tranquility in the state facing terror and intimidation. During the election process, many Left cadres lost their lives. Even in the post-poll period and during the counting today, reports of violence and attacks have come in," CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said.

The party has decided to analyse the cause of defeat and chalk out strategy on how it could revive its old glory that it had enjoyed under legendary Chief Minister Jyoti Basu and later under Buddhadev Bhattacharya.

"The CPM Central Committee and the West Bengal State Committee will examine the reasons for the poor performance of the Left Front and the electoral tactics adopted to draw proper lessons. The party and the Left Front will continue with their struggle for protecting the democratic rights and civil liberties of the people and against the politics of terror," Yechury added.

CPM Central Committee member, Badal Saroj said, "The Left's ideology and agenda couldn't be projected amongst the masses as it was need. Even, the revival process by taking us issues through mass struggles and movements was late. Moreover, there's always a compulsion in the case of alliance, as a common path needs to be taken and you can't push your issues aggressively. As a result, we couldn't win over our lost mass-base."


"There are several other issues that led to Left's defeat in West Bengal. In the last five years there had been a systematic attack on our party offices and workers by the TMC goons and more than 180 members have got killed. There's a virtual reign of terror and suppression, which we couldn't counter. The ruling party resorted to bribing and giving freebies. There has been no industrial development or employment generation in the state in a big way in the last five years. The TMC offered money to poor voters and Rs 2 lakh each to clubs to buy votes — unusual in Bengal politics," alleged Saroj.

Left's tentative revival plan

The Left, especially the CPM has decided to go back to basics.

- Establish dialogue with the masses, especially at the grass root level — its original voters' base.
- Need to review afresh the party's action plan.
- Focus on working class by taking up their issues aggressively.
- Sustained effort.
- Reorientation and intensify struggle.
- Aggressively counter 'Hindutva ideology' of the BJP and RSS.

In its political resolution adopted during the 21st Congress of the CPM, it has noted that communal politics continued to pose a danger as the RSS and its political wing — the BJP sought an opportunity to push forward the communal agenda.

1. The Hindutva agenda of the BJP-RSS combine must be fought politically and on the ground by the Party and the mass organisations in the social, cultural, ideological and educational spheres. The broadest mobilisation of the secular and democratic forces against the communal danger and in defence of secular values should be undertaken. To fight against the authoritarian danger posed by the rightward shift by a broad mobilisation in defence of democratic rights, artistic freedom and opposing curbs on parliamentary democracy.


2. Develop the organisational work in the adivasi areas and among the dalits to counter the multifarious activities of the RSS outfits. The defence of minority (Muslim minority community) rights and the demand that special measures be undertaken for the educational and economic advancement of the minorities assume crucial importance.

"It's wrong to think that the Left has got decimated. Now, we're in two states. After a review, if needed we have to change our style of functioning. We have to make our agenda clearer to our target voters — the working class by aggressively taking up their issues. There is a need to hammer class issues and for this big preparation and sustained effort is required, besides strongly countering communal forces in the state," added Saroj.

Updated Date: May 20, 2016 08:16:13 IST